Saginaw Fire Department without a permanent fire chief - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Saginaw Fire Department without a permanent fire chief

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(07/31/12) - Falling staffing levels and the lack of a fire chief is leading to growing concern in the city of Saginaw.

The Saginaw Fire Department hasn't had a permanent fire chief since the retirement of Dean Holland last June.

Ricardo Longoria, who was interim chief, left his position in February of this year.

That vacancy is leading to some to ask "who's in charge?"

Currently, the Saginaw Fire Department has three battalion chiefs who report directly to the assistant city manager at least once a week, but firefighters want a permanent leader.

"We are frustrated as firefighters," said Aileen Pettinger, a firefighter with the department.

Pettinger doesn't understand why she hasn't had a fire chief in more than one year.

"We are extremely busy right now. You've seen on your own news coverage that we've had three fires a night consistently the last couple of weeks and we have no fire chief. We have no leadership at the top to direct us," she said.

Assistant city manager Phillip Ludos says there has been a committee working on the reorganization of public safety, which includes both police and fire.

There's still no word on exactly when the city will hire a new chief.

"That committee is due to wrap up its work by the end of September. Pretty close to that time and we'll bring back some recommendations to the city manager as to how to do it. With their recommendations, I don't envision that the city manager will be making any moves until he get back that report," Ludos explained.

Mary Champion has lived on Cherry Street for 35 years. Just down the street is where 8-year-old Cha'Kur Tolbert died in a house fire over the weekend. She wants city leaders to make a decision soon.

"It really makes me feel bad because I know we need a fire chief. A leader for the firemen and everything and I think we should have one and especially over here in this neighborhood," she said.

For months, there's been a debate about wether or not the city is in violation of a charter.

Ludos says there really hasn't been any change in the day to day operations since the city has been without a fire chief.

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